Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

Address Misinformation with a Letter to the Editor

Flickr-3212512457Although they are often maligned as artifacts of the past and sometimes used as cupboard lining, newspapers should never be discounted. Print news is still a powerful weapon in the faithful advocate's tool box.

Talking about poverty and hunger in a public forum can engage and educate others – including legislators – about the very real prevalence of hunger in your community.  Members of Congress often subscribe to local papers as a way of keeping in touch with their home districts.  They pay special attention to the opinion pages.

The co-chairs of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Bread for the World Team, used the local paper to address misinformation. After the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ran an editorial critical of the SNAP program, Donna Hansen and Joyce Rothermel submitted a Letter to the Editor, or LTE, titled Food Stamps are Working.

Responding to a statement in the editorial that implied SNAP fraud and abuse is disproportionally high, the team leaders write:

SNAP fraud rates are at an all-time low despite all-time-high participation. SNAP trafficking, the illegal exchange of SNAP benefits for cash, has dropped from about 4 cents on the dollar to 1 cent. SNAP's error rate remains at a record low of 3.8 percent. According to the Government Accountability Office, the majority of SNAP errors are a result of administrative errors, not intentional fraud. In addition, SNAP already has work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents — they are limited to three months of SNAP benefits in a three-year period.

The facts outlined in the common sense LTE counteract the misinformation in the editorial and provide a more accurate context for Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey (D). The next farm bill, which authorizes SNAP, is yet to be conferenced between the two chambers of the House and Senate.  The House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would cut SNAP by $40 billion dollars over 10 years and the paper’s reach includes Reps. Mike Kelly (R-03), Mike Doyle (D-14), Tim Murphy (R-18), and Keith Rothfus (R-12). In Pennsylvania, 1,784,566 people participated in SNAP in May of 2013. If the House proposal were enacted, many Pennsylvanians would have their benefits reduced or lose them altogether. Roughly 63 percent of households would need to reapply for benefits.

To write a letter to the editor, you first need an issue-- the SNAP cuts being considered by the House could mean increased hunger if enacted. Advocating to end hunger means educating Congress and our communities about the importance of the program. Bread for the World’s media team has created a set of resources to help you get started.

The most powerful tool, however, is your voice in the many ways you can use it.  We expect the House to vote on the proposal as early as Wednesday. Email or call your representative today and urge him or her to vote against deep and harmful cuts to SNAP. Use our toll-free number, 800-826-3688, to be connected to the Capitol switchboard or click here to send an email.


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